Detective Comics has wrapped its “Lonely Place of Living” arc with issue #968, and it’s official: Tim Drake is back in business in Gotham City for once and, theoretically, for all. But despite the highly anticipated “resurrection” (He wasn’t actually dead, of course, but locked in an extra-dimensional prison), “Lonely Place of Living” has really served to set up more questions than answers.
The General and The Colony
Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong has been an on-again, off-again side character through Detective Comics since the start of Rebirth, and with good reason. He may not seem like much, but Armstrong is actually the Rebirth re-imagining of one of Tim Drake’s earliest costumed enemies from his Robin days: A tyrannical, historically obsessed pre-teen who called himself The General.
Now, Armstrong’s original incarnation was a product of the early ’90s in every sense of the word; he was campy, layered in the sort of bombastic, over the top trappings of the comics of the era, and decidedly designed to appeal to kids, so there’s likely not a lot that can be dug up from his past that will still maintain relevance today. However, it is pretty likely that Armstrong’s Rebirth storyline has really only just begun.
In #968, we see him working to reverse engineer the tech from the Red Robin suit before he’s interrupted by Brother Eye, an artificial intelligence released by the future Tim Drake. It’s not necessarily new information that Armstrong has been nurturing an obsession-slash-grudge against Red Robin — that’s been something festering in the background since the first arc of the book — but this is our first real look at Armstrong really cracking. He’s starting to lose his perspective on the situation, and now he’s gotten a good look at a system like Brother Eye…
It might not be an immediate, full-blown transition from Armstrong into The General, but is certainly a trajectory he seems to be on. The real question is, what does this mean for Tim’s future as a hero? Prior to his “death,” Tim had been ready to hang up his cape in favor of attending a university — is Armstrong going to be the thing to stop him?
Future Tim’s relationship to the timeline put forth in the pre-New 52 Teen Titans arc, “Titans Tomorrow,” were made explicitly clear, but given that “Lonely Place of Living” was all about changing that timeline… things about the future are still pretty ambiguous.
However, it’s worth noting that Tim explicitly mentions the concept of Hypertime, which is a concept that has existed in the DCU since the late 90s. In the simplest possible terms, Hypertime is the opposite of the Multiverse — it is a web of interconnected, branching timelines that merge and diverge into one another, but do not exist in separate universes or on alternate Earths. In Hypertime, everything occurs on one plane of existence, but in splintered off timelines, creating infinite possibilities for futures, pasts and even “realities” as things change.
Notably, the concept of Hypertime was also brought up in Rebirth during the Batman/Flash crossover event “The Button,” which dealt with alternate Earths as well. The interesting thing to note here is that Future Tim talks about Hypertime “fighting back,” an idea which grants a new sort of power to the concept.
In previous incarnations, Hypertime was actively just a sort of “stream” from which alterations would pass through and merge into, so the idea that there are events in that stream which can actively solidify and reject change is a twist that has yet to be really explored.
What that might mean for Future Tim’s, well, future, and the timeline he set out to change is still left up in the air. And perhaps more importantly, what the mounting prevalence of Hypertime could mean in a DCU with an active multiverse is really anyone’s guess — Future Tim makes some specific call outs to characters like Connor Kent, and future events like something apparently horrible that Damian Wayne is going to do to Jon Kent soon, both of which are now highly variable given the increasingly malleable nature of the DCU’s reality.
With any luck, these these questions and breadcrumbs will be clarified and fleshed out in the upcoming Super Sons/Teen Titans crossover event “Super Sons of Tomorrow,” set to start rolling out next month.
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